This past Saturday I was on my way to Book Con and I sent out a tweet “So excited for Book Con #Ilovereading.” I’m happy and minding my own business when a red truck hops the curb on 34th and 9th. He takes out 2 pedestrians standing on the curb and is mere feet away from me. The woman who gets hit lands directly at my feet and is obviously very hurt. So I take a beat to survey the situation and then I spring to action.
“You! Call 911.”
“You! Check that man over there.”
“Sir, back up.”
“Ma’am, calm down.”
I check her pulse. She has one! I check her breathing, I can’t feel her breath so I open her mouth and start thinking about the 7 or 8 CPR classes I’ve taken over the course of my life. What’s next? But once her mouth is open and her tongue is out of the way she starts breathing, very labored, but there’s breath. I try to call to her, but there is no response. All of a sudden blood starts coming out of her nose. People who are standing around start getting panicky. Someone hands me a sweatshirt because the 911 response person she is on the phone with told her we needed a dry towel.
So I’m gently wiping the blood from her nose holding her head and keeping one hand on her pulse to make sure she’s alive for when the ambulance gets here. I’m sending prayers up to God to keep her safe, keep me steady and calm, let the ambulance arrive quickly and I’m thinking, ‘Is this all I do? Just sit here, next to her, checking her vitals till help arrives?’
In the aftermath, my father assures me over the phone, yes I did all I could. I did the right things. (He taught CPR classes for years, in fact I took a few CPR classes with him as my instructor, so his assurance is valid and helpful.) But in the moment all you can think is ‘Is this right?’
In the moment of clear thinking that comes from just sitting there with my hands in her blood I tell someone to check the driver. But he has already gotten out of the car and is standing over me in a nervous manner. “I’m the driver, is she ok? IS SHE OK???”
I tell him to back up. And wait for the authorities, which he does not do. He walks away from the scene. He leaves. He scampers in that frightened manner that you expect from weasels and mice. Not from grown men, but fear is a powerful emotion that makes one man run with his tail between his legs and one woman spring to action and take charge of a scary situation. I am no better than this man. If I had been the one behind the wheel and not the one almost hit, would I have run as well? You can never know till you are presented with that situation. Till the choice is staring you in the face.
I’ve always wondered what I’d do in a crisis situation. And now I know. All my chaotic hurricane tendencies are silenced in the utter chaos of a circumstance like this. I am calm. I am steady and I can handle this!
The ambulance, a fire truck and two cop cars arrive and take over the situation. I tell them what I know. And the cop in charge takes me around the block to try and ID the driver who has fled. I suspect he is actually distracting me from the inevitable onslaught of post traumatic emotions that are bound to flood out of me once my adrenaline subsides. This is a brilliant idea! So we look. But we don’t find him. We do find a bathroom and he suggests I wash my hands. ‘Oh yes! They’re still covered in that woman’s blood. Excellent idea.’ So I wash up and we keep looking, but that day he is not found. The cop assures me “Don’t worry miss. We’ll get the guy.” I am assured!
I don’t know this woman. I’ll never know her name. Maybe I don’t want to. Because she was alive when she got in that ambulance and as long as I don’t know her name she will continue to be the woman who lived. But the news says she’s fighting for her life and is in critical condition. So if I do the research (a simple Google search will probably be fruitful in coming up with her identity) and find out who she is I may find out that she’s really Sally Jo Smith from Yonkers who died in a horrific car accident Saturday morning. The morning would be a terrible time to die. You have the whole day ahead of you in the morning. There is hope in the morning. So I let her be the nameless living, not the identified dead.
The cop has my info if he needs more from me. And he says I can go now. So I leave. What was I doing again? Oh yes. Book Con. The thing I was headed to before I saw a car become a weapon. Before I understood that this stuff doesn’t just happen on the news or in the movies. It’s real.
I continue on to the Javits Center. I paid to go to Book Con. Maybe I should go. But then I remember the woman’s knapsack. Filled with snacks and books and a map of New York, now covered in blood. And I have a feeling she was heading to Book Con herself. How can I go, knowing she won’t get to. I call mom and dad and Erin and Cristina and Elizabeth and Grace and Josh and no one is answering and I’m starting to panic. But then they call back and talk me down. They say it’s still ok to go. They say the distraction may be a good thing right now. So I go… cause #Ilovereading.